Saturday, December 25, 2010

The homestretch of Europa

Hey it is offically Christmas here in Austria and for the first time in my life, I am not spending this early morning at my mom's. I generally sleep at her house and wake up at like 4 in the morning to see what my "Santa" gift is, a fabulous unwrapped gift that appears overnight. The stockings are also full of candy by that point which I will get intimate with real quick, eating Mr. Goodbar's and cream-filled chocolate statuettes in a daze as I stare at the tree.

This year is, well, the complete opposite of that. I am awake though, at 5 am our time here so I guess some things don't change. Joel has never missed a Christmas at home either so we decided to do whatever the hell we wanted over here as strangers in a foreign city. It has been an exciting prospect, deciding what we want to eat and do. We are sort of grown up versions of Maculay Culkin in Home Alone, left to our own devices.

We arrived yesterday evening (technically the day before yesterday I suppose, the 23rd) a wee bit burnt out. We had a 10 hour train ride from Berlin, which we had only 13 hours to enjoy from about 8pm to 9am, so we decided we weren't gonna get a hostel and instead we were gonna party our asses off. We meandered about for hours, through seedy bars, snowy parks, down streets with Hamburger in the name, wherever our frozen toes took us. I made it til about 2am, got sleepy, got coffee and a kebab, perked up a bit, got sleepy again (I am officially getting's so sad). Amazingly we ended up 10 minutes walking time from the train station which was damn good considering our utter lack of any information or directions whatsoever ha ha. When we got there we tried to sleep in the FREEZING, drafty train station which didn't really work out. Damn Berlin in December, you're effing coooold (duh I suppose, but shockingly so!).

Anyhow, it was a long night and a journey to Vienna the next day. When we got here, we were beyond stoked. Katie is letting us live at her home for a few days though she is in the States, and it has been absolutely perfect. We have dishes and a bed and a TV! And computers and warmth and relaxing. We get to hang out with each other and not have to worry about making reservations and we can eat stuff that's not in our backpack. It's super super super wonderful (Katie if you're reading this, you are a goddess).

So for Christmas Joel and I decided that we would make a hearty stew with pasta, have some garlic bread, maybe bake some cookies, and have jello shots. Activities on the non-existent agenda include movie watching, popcorn eating, and game playing (Cluedo! Which is Clue European-style). We set out to acquire provisions this morning, wandering aimlessly, and ending up in a little supermarket that turned out to be Muslim (see extremely awkward encounter when we asked about alcohol. The lady looked like she was going to shit a kitten. She was like, "no no I don't know where to find that!" like we asked for slow-roasted fetuses or something). Nothing else was open besides Muslim shops due to Christmas eve except of course for a little Slovekian bar. We wandered in to ask about other stores & ended up staying for a beer which was probably the best decision we've ever made.

We were there for like five hours (we left at 6pm ish, ha ha ha). There were about 6 guys in the bar and this gorgeous bartender who couldn't speak a lick of English (she did know "fuck you" though, which turns out is international!). They all know each other and love American rock (NIRVANA! We listened to a ton of Nirvana! On Christmas eve! In Vienna! Bizarro and so lovely) and all of us ended up doing like 7 rounds of mysterious liquor shots (known only as "Averna") and they taught us some German. Also I was getting my dance on, of course, and two of the old school Austrian gentlemen decided to teach me how to waltz and do a box step, and it was really precious. I bought our little posse a round and thanked them all profusely (gushed, in fact) for letting us be a part of their evening, in this bar which felt a bit like a private party, and for being so nice and hanging out with two young displaced Americans on Christmas eve. They were embarassed, perhaps because they did not have people to be with or places to go besides here. The bartender had some Slovekian friends come in who brought food, and they discussed how their families are far away, so it seemed we all had a family-less Christmas in common.

Toward the end, one of the guys came up to Joel and I and said, "Remember this feeling forever". He couldn't speak much English but he said it very clearly, smiled and walked away (not without also telling Joel that I am super :). And I am so glad he said that because he is so right. Here I am, in this beautiful country, at this beautiful time, with this person that I really truly love intensely and enjoy immensely, who I am committed to. He and I got to spend the afternoon doing what we love best, talking to each other about everything under the sun. We spent this Christmas eve drinking beer, rocking out to White Snake "HERE I GO AGAIN ON MY OWN! GOING DOWN THE ONLY ROAD I'VE EVER KNOOOWWNNN!" which we decided is our song, rolling cigarettes, with floating discussions about work and men and women and when we live together in the summer and parenting a cat properly...... And when we finally made our way out we came home and cooked dinner and chatted more and layed around, and I held his hand and put my head on his chest and... I want to remember this feeling forever.

Merry Christmas, wherever you are, whatever you do. Be with someone you love and make it really good.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

prancin' in France

Oh me, oh my I am finally here. The worst quarter of my life (well, most stressful) is OVER. Not sure how I did academically, but it's pretty hard to care about that since I worked my ass off until it nearly fell off, and I am in bread-cheese-salami-wine land. It's magnificent to be here. I feel like I am myself again, which is strange considering I am two oceans and several thousand miles away from home. I was not enjoying the perpetually stressed out person I had become toward the end of the quarter. I couldn't truly enjoy much of anything because I was always thinking about what needed to be taken care of. I felt more displaced in the town in which I live than I do as an anonymous wanderer in a small French city (Poitiers).

So the whole not knowing French thing IS actually an issue. Imagine that. I sort of thought it would just...come together haha, which sounds kind of ridiculous, but alas. In Paris between my very limited French vocabulary and the decent English vocabulary of many Parisians, and JOEL my linguistic saving grace, I did OK. Lots of smiling and nodding, but not bad. In Poitiers people do not speak English and they talk to me with a look on their face like, seriously? Nothin? Half-amused, a quarter sorry for me and a quarter judgmental. Which is just fine. My first self-imposed exercise was attempting to order food at Speed Burger, a nearby joint that sells way more than any burger joint I've ever seen. Donuts and cookies are on the menu! Anyway, I wrote down what I was going to say and confidently began to execute it. Minor issue I did not account for- the responses! I had my part down(ish) but the whole them saying things back thing was problematic. It was a fail in so many ways, and I sort of panicked and said I didn't want burgers and a sympathetic Joel and friends took over. Sigh. But it's getting better! I bought pastries successfully yesterday, with proper bonjour's and au revoir's and pointing, and I was so pleased with myself, and my GOD were they fantastic! 5 euros for heaven? Um yeahhhhh.

The food is awesome. We have different kinds of cheese, veggies, rice, baguettes, homemade soup, and stuff to drink and that is pretty much it, and it totally works. Living together in a tiny studio is really fun!!! We still have lots of time to possibly drive each other crazy but I am optimistic it's not going to happen. We looked at each other last night and I said, "man you're gonna be getting a lot of Kim." And Joel said, "and lady, you're gonna be getting a lot of Joel." And we nodded our heads and smiled at each other. Joel is...exemplary. He is ceaselessly interesting, extremely caring, and has this tremendous balancing effect on me that I have rarely, if ever, experienced from another human being. My anxious tendencies dissipate and I can actually relax.

When I arrived I had gotten 4 hours of sleep in three days, and I was sort of delirious and painfully apathetic. I didn't care where we went or how we got there, I just stared at everything and held Joel's hand. I apologized that he is getting a crappy version of Kim, a Kim who has not recovered from finals and bronchitis and a lack of space and calm. I explained that I could not really speak more than I felt inclined (no small talk), or plan/organize, or do anything more than...this. He assured me that I am just fine, and he does not expect anything, but just wants me to feel comfortable and happy. And I have been. Joel is in school for most of the day, and I enjoy my own company and silence, both of which I sorely need. I read lots, clean, eat, walk around, contemplate, allow myself to not contemplate and just space out... What a life. Far cry from a week ago, holy moly.

In a week and a half we start our big 10 day journey through Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna and Switzerland, then back up to Paris where we fly home to Portland. It will certainly be insane so I am making sure to rest up for the big journey. Wandering around and taking everything in is the perfect mode of operating right now.

*Well I'm sure you are wondering, where the hell are pictures? I am not too on top of the photos but I will put some up soon I promise! Here is a link that has some info about Poitiers (lots of churches!)-*